Prevention of Rabies

The most effective way to prevent rabies in pets is through vaccination. Safe, effective vaccines are available for dogs, cats, horses, cattle, and sheep. All dogs and cats should be vaccinated after 12 weeks of age, one year later, and then every 3 years.

Vaccinated cats and dogs should wear rabies tags, and their owners should keep their rabies certificates. Rabies shots should be administered by a licensed veterinarian.

Pet owners in the Northeastern United States, where rabies is epidemic among raccoons, should be especially diligent in vaccinating all cats and dogs. Any unvaccinated pet that comes into contact with a rabid animal is at risk for rabies.

Rabies poses a serious health threat to humans. People who have frequent contact with animals (e.g., pet groomers, zookeepers) should get a pre-exposure rabies vaccination.

Do not keep skunks, foxes, raccoons, or bats as pets; they cannot be vaccinated and are susceptible to rabies. Avoid animals that seem to be behaving abnormally, especially wild animals that seem too friendly.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 01 Mar 2001

Last Modified: 20 Feb 2015